IntraTeam 2021 – virtually a triumph

I cannot remember when I first attended the annual IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen but I do know that my first presentation was in 2010. I’m fairly sure I’ve been to all the Events since, recognizing the value of the quality and range of speakers, the sense of being part of a community rather than an audience and a level of conference organisation that acts as a benchmark against which I assess all other conferences. The 2020 Event was the last time I travelled outside of the UK and had an opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones.

In the months leading up to IntraTeam Event 2021 I was wondering just how Kurt, Annette and his team would keep all the attributes of past events in a virtual format. The answer was that they succeeded quite brilliantly. Great speakers, great community, great organisation. What more could you ask for? Kurt chose to go down the Teams webinar model to give opportunities for networking. The moment you logged on for the first day Kurt sent you off to meet people you may not have known in a social channel. The signs were very promising from the start. In previous conferences you had a difficult decision to make about track selection – this year it was about which of ten discussion channels to drop into.

The only major change was that there was just a single track each day but with shorter presentations the number of speakers was still quite high. From the outset the volume of chat comments was very noticeable. The comments were not just about the content of the presentation. Participants were also highlighting web resources and experts that might be able to add a further dimension. At times the chat stream was moving at the speed of a news ticker. One blink or a sip of coffee and you were in danger of rejoining a dozen comments later.

It would be invidious to pick out particular presentations as everyone had clearly made an effort (well, most people) to make the best use of their time slot and get to the heart of their presentations without a long introduction. Immediately after each presentation the speaker was directed into a channel where more discussions could take place whilst Kurt reset ‘the stage’ for the next presentation. There were very few technical mishaps.  When they did occur Kurt dealt with them in a very understanding way and it never took long to get back onto track. Of course, being IntraTeam the timing was spot on throughout the conference.

One of the best discussions was the final event of the programme, where a planned consideration of the search track turned into a much wider (and arguably more interesting!) discussion about the future of conferences and in particular whether a hybrid blend of on-site and remote presentations might be a way of bringing in speakers who might otherwise not be able to justify the travel costs.

Overall it was a triumph of content, communication and community, entirely due to the vision and commitment of Kurt to deliver a conference that had all the traditional elements of an IntraTeam event with just a few twists to accommodate a virtual event. I made pages of notes (easier at my desk than sitting at a chair) and had to dump a number of preconceptions about the art and craft creating a digital user experience into my waste bin.

I’ll end with a question. If you did not attend even a day what excuse did you give yourself? It can’t have been travel costs. You missed so much, and we missed you.  

Martin White